Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

No Boost Here

The Phillies and their fans had been pointing to last night since Spring Training.

Wait until Chase Utley and Ryan Howard get back.

Just wait.

But reality should have hit everybody in the face harder than Brian McCann hit that grand slam against Antonio Bastardo in last night’s 5-0 loss to the Braves. No two players can save a baseball team. They can help — they can be a huge help, actually – but they can’t do it alone. This isn’t basketball, where one player can take over a game night after night after night (see the Cavaliers with and without LeBron James). This isn’t football, where the quarterback’s play can elevate a team (see the Colts with and without Peyton Manning). There are many more pieces in play in baseball, which explains why the Phillies are 1-8 since Utley’s return and why Howard couldn’t make a difference last night, despite going 2-for-4 with a double.

The Phillies are 37-48, the first time they have been 11 games under .500 since June 5, 2002.

(Randy Wolf, Ricky Bottalico and Dan Plesac pitched in the Phillies’ 2-1 loss to the Marlins at Veterans Stadium that day. Jimmy Rollins doubled to score Doug Glanville in the third inning for the Phillies’ only run.)

The Phillies are 13 games behind the Nationals in the National League East. Even if the Nationals (48-33) finish 41-40 for 89 wins, the Phillies would need to finish 52-25 (.675) just to tie. If the Nationals keep their current pace, they would finish 96-66. The Phillies would need to finish 59-18 (.766) to tie.

But what about the Wild Card? There are two this year, which helps. The Phillies are nine games behind the Reds, who would be the second Wild Card winner. The Reds are on pace for 87 wins. The Phillies would need to finish 50-27 (.649) to tie. Now, the Phillies have been a very good second-half team under Charlie Manuel, playing .600 or better ball in five of the past seven seasons after the All-Star break. But only once have they played at a .649 clip or better, when they went 50-25 (.667) in 2010.

Howard said last night the Phillies just need to worry about winning series at this point. That would be a start, but you have to wonder if just winning series before the July 31 trade deadline will be enough to convince the front office not to sell? If the Phillies win every series between now and the trade deadline they will be 49-53 (.480).

Again, that’s if they win every series. No slip ups.

The Phillies need to start winning series, but they also need to sweep a few here and there. Maybe that first series after the break in Colorado. Maybe that home series against the Brewers July 23-25. If they did that and won every other series they would be 51-51 before the deadline.

Tall task? Absolutely. Impossible. Not impossible. But right now there is little reason to believe this team can play that way. Of course, stranger things have happened. Remember the end to the 2007 season. Remember how far back the Cardinals and Rays were late last season. Anything can happen. But those comebacks also are exceptions to the rule. There are many, many, many more teams in baseball history that were this far back and never made a comeback.

Do these Phillies have one good run in them? What do you think?

Hitting Fourth and Playing First Base …

The Big Piece is back.

Ruben Amaro Jr. said after last night’s gut-wrenching 6-5 loss to the Mets at Citi Field that Ryan Howard, who has been on the disabled list since the season started because of left Achilles surgery, is “likely” to start at first base tonight against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. But “likely” means he will unless something absolutely unexpected pops up.

“Excited to be back in Philly tomorrow,” Howard tweeted last night.

Amaro said Howard will be evaluated this afternoon before a final decision is made, but “if we feel comfortable with how he felt coming out of this game – and so far we do – then it’s likely he’ll begin playing in Philadelphia tomorrow.”

Howard played nine innings at first base in a rehab game last night with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He went 2-for-3 with one RBI. In seven rehab games with Class A Lakewood and Lehigh Valley he hit a combined .500 (10-for-20) with two doubles, one home run and 10 RBIs. He hasn’t played back-to-back games at first base, but so what? It isn’t a pain issue with Howard, like it is with Chase Utley. It’s a comfort thing. Amaro said Howard is running fairly well, although “he’s had a tiny hitch in his giddy-up I guess, but when he’s running full speed he looks pretty smooth.” But it’s not like playing a few more rehab games is going to have Howard running at 100 percent. Howard said last week he won’t be 100 percent this season.

So if the Achillies is healed (Howard said it’s healthy), he can hit (Howard said the Achilles does not affect his hitting) and he is comfortable, why not bring him up?

What does anybody have to lose?

I’ve had a few people ask me on Twitter if he is being rushed back. Rushed back? I don’t think so. It’s July 6. No, the only question I have is: Is it too late to make a difference?

“If he plays this weekend, it may not be the worst thing for him to get some time off,” he said. “You just don’t know how he’ll react and what kind of adrenaline there will be. We’ll take it one day at a time with him.”

Day 1 begins tonight.

Could Howard Return This Weekend?

Could Ryan Howard rejoin the Phillies this weekend?

It sure sounds like it.

“I guess it’s possible,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said this afternoon at Citi Field. “But we’ll see how he feels the next day or so.”

Howard has played six games in rehab assignments with Class A Lakewood and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is hitting a combined .471 (8-for-17) with two doubles, one home run, nine RBIs, three walks and three strikeouts. The Phillies needed Chase Utley to play back-to-back games at second base before they considered activating him from the DL, but Howard might be different, although he is scheduled to play back-to-back games at first base tonight and tomorrow night with Lehigh Valley.

“He’s been progressing pretty good,” Amaro said. “We’ll see how he feels after tonight.”

Amaro said Howard is running fairly well, although “he’s had a tiny hitch in his giddy-up I guess, but when he’s running full speed he looks pretty smooth.”

It sounds like Howard thinks he’s ready to rejoin the Phillies.

“I think he thinks he’s ready,” Amaro said. “But we’ll see. We’re still talking with the docs and have people evaluating him every day. … If he plays this weekend (for the Phillies), it may not be the worst thing for him to get some time off. You just don’t know how he’ll react and what kind of adrenaline there will be. We’ll take it one day at a time with him.”

Reading between the lines we can make the following assumption: If Howard isn’t back this weekend, he should be back for the July 13-15 series against the Rockies immediately following the break. But both Amaro and Charlie Manuel said Howard will be evaluated after tonight’s game at Lehigh Valley. That makes you think they could give him the green light and activate him for tomorrow night’s game against the Braves.

Howard Back After Break?

Chase Utley is expected back in the Phillies lineup tomorrow, but what about the Big Piece?

Could Ryan Howard be back shortly after the All-Star break?

It looks like it. The Phillies announced today that Howard will return to Philadelphia tomorrow for “functional testing on his left Achilles.” If Howard passes those tests he will begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Class A Lakewood. Once a position player begins a rehab assignment he has 20 days before he must be activated, unless there is a setback. That means if Howard took the full 20 days he could be back no later than July 18, or six games following the All-Star break.

Howard has been on the disabled list since the season started because of left Achilles surgery. He suffered a setback because of an infection in the heel in February. Charlie Manuel spoke to Howard on the telephone Monday.

“More than likely, the way things look, it’ll be after the All-Star break,” Manuel said. “He feels real good. He still says that when he runs he’s got a little limp. He says, ‘I want to play and I feel like I can play.’ He says, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be where you want me to be or not,’ but at the same time he’s got to be able to go play and be able to do some things. He feels like he’s getting there. He’s very positive about where he’s at when I talked with him.”

Utley: There’s Still Time

Is it too late for Chase Utley?

Is it too late for the Phillies?

“There’s no doubt in my mind there’s plenty of time,” Utley said before Monday’s game against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. “I know there are some people that have given up on me. And there are some people that have given up on this team. But I’ll be the first one to tell you that I definitely haven’t given up on myself, and I know our guys have not given up on this year. We have strong-willed guys on this team.”

Those were uncharacteristically strong comments from Utley, who has been on the disabled list since the season started because of chondromalacia in his left knee. He worked out with the team Monday and will play a rehab game Tuesday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Assuming he feels OK, expect Utley to be activated and hitting third in the Phillies lineup Wednesday.

The Phillies certainly could use him in the lineup, in the field and in the clubhouse, which has been noticeably more blasé than past seasons.

Charlie Manuel is looking forward to Wednesday.

“Utley is our three-hole hitter,” he said. “I think he is the guy that works the count. I think he is the guy that when he’s right he’ll hit 25-30 homers. I think he is the guy that’ll hit .300. I think he is the guy that can knock in 100 runs and score 100. That’s what I picture Utley to be. I think until we find somebody I think can do better more than likely he’s going to land in that three-hole.”

And Manuel still believes Utley can be a productive three-hole hitter?

“I think he’s earned a chance to see if he’s that guy,” Manuel said.

“I do believe that,” said Utley, asked if he can be the hitter he was a few years ago. “There’s no doubt that (his legs) are stronger than they were last year. Having my legs under me is an important part of that. But time will tell.”

Utley would not say he is completely pain-free in his knees, but “I’m in a much better place than I was a month ago and I’m encouraged by that. I wouldn’t be out there if I felt uncomfortable.”

Utley hit .156 (5-for-32) in nine rehab games with Class A Clearwater, but it is difficult to read much into that. For example, he went 1-for-10 in a rehab assignment in Clearwater in 2007. He hit .332 that season for the Phillies.

“Every day, it seemed to get a little bit better,” Utley said. “I had some good swings and some bad swings, which was anticipated. But I’m optimistic of how things went.”

Manuel indicated Utley will be worked in slowly before they turn him loose, but Utley believes he should be eventually playing five, six or seven games a week.

No pressure, Chase.

“Anytime you add pressure to this game it will just make it more difficult. I understand,” he said. “I’ve been around here for a long time. We’ve had successful years here. I’m just as excited as the fans are to get back on the field.”

Utley Begins Rehab Assignment Tomorrow.

We finally have a timeline on Chase Utley.

The Phillies announced tonight that Utley, who has been on the disabled list since the beginning of the season with a chronic condition in his left knee, will begin a rehab assignment tomorrow with Class A Clearwater. Utley will be Clearwater’s designated hitter, but is expected to begin playing second base relatively shortly.

Position players can be on a rehab assignment for 20 days. If they are healthy, they are expected to rejoin the big-league club at that point.

That means if Utley’s rehab assignments goes well he should be back with the Phillies no later than July 2.

Utley played in only nine rehab games last season before rejoining the Phillies. Ruben Amaro Jr. said Utley would need more time this year, although Utley wouldn’t say how much time he might need.

“We’ll have to see,” Utley told reporters June 3, the day he left for Clearwater after spending more than a month rehabbing with the team. “I didn’t swing the bat that great initially last year. My whole goal is to feel comfortable not only in the batter’s box but on the field as well.”

By all accounts, Utley has looked good swinging the bat. He has worked hard to keep his legs strong during rehab. A lack of lower body strength likely sapped him of his power last season, when he had the worst year of his career offensively since becoming an everyday player.

The Phillies had no update on Ryan Howard, who is rehabbing from left Achilles surgery. But it is not a stretch to think both players could be back before the All-Star break.

*

Placido Polanco visited hand specialist Randall Culp today in Philadelphia. Polanco (left wrist) has improved and could be available in tomorrow’s series opener against the Twins.

Utley, Howard, Halladay and More

Ruben Amaro Jr. took a seat in the Phillies dugout before tonight’s game against the Dodgers to offer updates on the nine players on the disabled list.

That’s nine, folks.

Here we go:

Chase Utley (chondromalacia left knee). He did not play in an extended Spring Training game Tuesday in Clearwater, Fla., but he will play Wednesday as a designated hitter. There are no extended Spring Training games again until June 12, so in the meantime Utley will participate in simulated games and continue his regular workouts. Amaro said it is unlikely Utley begins an official rehab assignment until he plays in that second round of extended Spring Training games June 12-14. “Generally, Chase, when he’s ready to go he’ll let us know,” Amaro said. “Just like he did on Sunday.” Amaro would not say if Utley could be back before the All-Star break, but if Utley begins a rehab assignment June 15 he would have 20 days to get himself ready to rejoin the team. That would put him at July 5.

Ryan Howard (left Achilles surgery). He will hit in Wednesday’s extended Spring Training game, but he will not run or play in the field. Amaro said Howard has been jogging and doing some light sprinting, but said, “His calf just isn’t strong enough to really do full-out sprint work. I don’t know what the percentage is, 50 percent, 40 percent 60 percent, I really don’t know.”

Roy Halladay (strained right latissimus dorsi). Everybody has been awaiting the second opinion from Mets physician David Altchek, but Amaro said, “There’s not going to really be much difference in the prognosis.” The Phillies sent Altcheck results from previous MRIs on Friday and they just arrived in New York on Tuesday morning. Amaro said Halladay has started some shoulder exercises and other upper body work. “He’s doing pretty well,” Amaro said. “This morning’s report was he was symptom free and doing some of the exercises, so that’s a good sign.” Halladay could begin throwing again at the three week mark.

Jim Thome (lower back strain). He could rejoin the team in time for this weekend’s interleague series in Baltimore. It sounds like Thome will only DH and pinch-hit upon his return to the big leagues, which could be an issue. But playing in the field certainly seems out of the question. Can Thome be effective as a full-time pinch-hitter after these nine interleague road games? “I don’t know,” Amaro said. “That’s a good question. We’ll find out.”

Laynce Nix (strained left calf). He will head to Clearwater following Thursday’s game to pick up his rehab. “He’s been progressing pretty good, too,” Amaro said.

Mike Stutes (right shoulder inflammation) and David Herndon (right elbow inflammation). Amaro said they are progressing slowly.

Justin De Fratus (strained right elbow). He is throwing from 75 feet. “Hopefully we can get him going in the next couple weeks,” Amaro said.

Jose Contreras (strained right elbow). No surgery has been scheduled yet.

Utley Heads to Clearwater

Chase Utley is taking the next step.

He is headed to Clearwater, Fla., where he could play an extended Spring Training game as early as Monday. He hopes to rejoin the Phillies sooner rather than later, but only he knows for sure and Sunday he offered no timetable for his return from a chronically injured left knee that has kept him sidelined since he flied out to deep center field in the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.

“I don’t have a time frame,” he said during an unexpected announcement in front of his locker following a 5-1 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. “My whole goal is to feel comfortable and feel like I can contribute on a daily basis. I’m excited. I’m not happy I’m in this position, but I’m excited that I’m feeling better and I have an opportunity to go down and keep working and kind of advance how things are going here.”

Utley’s health has been a mystery since Spring Training. The Phillies said he would be ready to start the season on time, but he stopped participating in fielding practice the second week of camp and instead spent the first month of the season working with a physical therapist in Phoenix. He rejoined the team May 5 with the expectation he would take ground balls for a week or two before heading to Clearwater.

It took longer than expected.

(more…)

Utley Update

Chase Utley offered a quick update on his left knee before batting practice this evening at Wrigley Field.

Here is what he said:

Q: How did you feel taking grounders?
A: Ground balls went pretty well yesterday. I plan on doing some more today. I ran a little bit earlier today, which was nice. It was good to wake up feeling pretty good. That’s a good sign.

Q: You said in Washington you’d start taking ground balls, but it didn’t happen for a couple weeks. Why?
A: I was doing some things inside. I’m trying to get to a point where when we start going for it, I feel pretty comfortable. I’ve realized over the course of this time that the more I push it and feel uncomfortable, the worse it can get. We try to make small progressions. Taking ground balls yesterday was a good sign. I felt pretty good today.

(more…)

A Step Closer for Utley

Chase Utley is a little closer to rejoining the Phillies.

He physically rejoined them today at Nationals Park, although he remains at least a few weeks away from rejoining the Phillies lineup. Utley, who is on the disabled list with chondromalacia in his left knee, will rehab with the team until he feels ready to begin playing rehab games in Clearwater, Fla.

He spent about two weeks playing in rehab games last season before he rejoined the team.

Could he need just another two weeks this time?

(more…)

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